Black Number Four

By: Kandi Steiner

There are three things you should know about me.

One, I can read a bluff like a neon sign. Everyone gives themselves away in some form of a twitch or another, and after a few rounds at the table with me, I can guarantee I’ll know yours. So, throw your best fake smile or confident wink at me, but just know I can see right through you – and we both know there’s no sense in betting all your chips with nothing but a Jack high in your hands.

Two, I have the best poker face in the game. I’ll make you think you’re reading me, show a little sign of being nervous maybe or bite my lip in anticipation of the river, but it’s all part of the plan. I’m building you up to expect the wind to blow one way just so I can pull out an industrial size fan and send your shit flying just the opposite. And if by chance you do get to me, you won’t know – because I don’t let it show, not even a little. If anything, I’ll make you think you actually played right into my hand – making you the nervous one, in turn. The key to a killer poker face is to strip your soul of all emotion and show only what you purposefully want the other person to see. And trust me – I’m the lead singer in the band of No Emotion.

Number three and, perhaps, the most important thing to know about me is this: I know when to fold. I know when to hang in tough, when to push my luck, when to bluff my ass out of a tight situation and when to throw the cards down and run as fast as I can in the other direction. In poker and in life, it’s all about knowing the game you’re playing and how you stand up to the competition. And pace – you have to know when to push and when to sit back and let it ride. Now don’t get me wrong – I hate throwing in the towel as much as any other competitive, adrenaline chasing poker junkie, but I’ve learned even in my short time in the game that there are some hands you just don’t mess with… some cards that forever trump others.

All three of these things are true. If you asked any sports reporter, any poker analyst, any pro standing around watching the final table of this tournament right now – they would tell you all three of these things about me and maybe add in a few notes of their own. Which is why I can’t understand why my hands are trembling, why my skin is slick with a film of sweat as I drop any shred of a poker face I have left and push the remainder of my chips forward – toward the one person who managed to get under my skin, to break me down, to change the game, to flip me on my ass and toss every rule I’ve ever had into a massive wood chipper, leaving me with nothing but the shavings.

The last thing I see before I close my eyes and give one final push of the chips toward the center of the table are the burning blue eyes that will forever haunt me, forever remind me that – even when we think we have a game completely mastered – there’s always the possibility that Chance and his brother, Luck, will show up and utterly screw everything.

“All in.”

“So should we start taking bets on which pledge will have the best game?” Jess asks, winking at a group of potential recruits as we pass the first rush table. The guys all react, some smiling awkwardly, some waving slightly, and one literally letting his jaw fall open.

I roll my eyes, pulling my Kappa Kappa Beta sweater over my head and tucking my hands in the front pocket. January in South Florida is still better weather than the rest of the country, in my opinion, but anything below sixty makes me want long sleeves. “Aren’t we a little old for freshmen, J-Love?”

“Hey! Some of them are sophomores. I heard there are even a few juniors this year.”

“What happened to Greg? I thought things were getting serious.”

She scoffs. “Yeah right. He was fun for semi-formal, but I lost interest over Christmas break. I’m ready for a new toy.” She turns mid-stride as she says the last line, lifting an eyebrow at three brothers at the Alpha Sig tent before falling right back into rhythm with me.

I laugh. “You’re relentless. You do realize you’re the Recruitment Chair now, right? You should probably be setting the standard for our sorority, which I don’t think includes scamming on the fresh meat.”

She shrugs. “There are more eyes on your Big than on me, Sky. Besides, maybe I’m trying to recruit all the skanks this semester.”

“Yeah, like that would ever fly with Ex or Lei,” I say, thinking of Erin and Ashlei. Erin Xander, known as Ex by pretty much everyone on campus, is my Big Sister in KKB. Her best friend, Ashlei, is the new Vice President. I don’t think I’ve ever seen either of them dress in any outfit that couldn’t somehow incorporate pearls and a tactful bow. They both come from old money and were essentially born and bred for the sorority lifestyle. They reveled in it. Just the thought of having a less than perfect pledge class would probably give my Big hives. In fact, I’m not sure I would get in if I had to rush this year. “Come on, let’s go drop off these cookies and start making the rounds.”

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